Last week the Family Foundation filed a lawsuit opposing amendments to Virginia’s “Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities” that removed unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions.
The Virginia Board of Health had approved the amendments in October by a vote of 11-4 and Governor Terry McAuliffe had certified the changes in January. The rules went into effect March 22 and put Virginia in compliance with the Supreme Court decision in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, which classified surgical center building requirements as an undue burden on abortion providers.
According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the Family Foundation waited until the public comment period was over to announce that they’d be filing a lawsuit.
“The lawsuit is another desperate attempt by anti-abortion groups to cut off a Virginia woman’s access to safe, legal abortion anyway they can,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
The struggle over these burdensome targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) began in 2011 when the state passed a law requiring clinics to widen their hallways and doorways, expand their parking lots, and construct awnings at the entrances, forcing clinics to either pay unnecessary costs or close.
The Virginia Board of Health was responsible for carrying out that law, and in 2013 the Board voted to only impose the medically unnecessary requirements on new clinics. Then-state Attorney General and strong abortion opponent Ken Cuccinelli responded by saying he would not defend the Board if they were sued over that decision and threatened that Board members could be held personally legally liable, causing them to reverse their vote. Their decision to amend those regulations in October was a major victory for advocates of women’s reproductive rights.
In February, Governor McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have specifically cut off Title X funding to organizations that perform abortions. The Delegate who introduced the bill is hoping that the General Assembly will be able to override the Governor’s veto.
Media Resources: NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia 4/21/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 2/23/17, 10/25/16